Granddad Bowser – My Best Friend
I would like to write some remembrances of my grandfather Bowser. I was never privileged to see my other grandfather, so my grandfather, Aaron Bowser stands out a little more in my memory. I can visualize him now as I saw him when I was a small boy. As I mentioned previously, Aaron and his wife, Linnie bought a small place near my home. Besides the main house, there was a "summer house", which I might explain was a small building. It had a stove, table and chairs, and a few other things. It was used in the summer to cook the meals and for preserving (i.e. "canning"), fruit and vegetables so that those activities would not heat up the main house. There were no fans or air conditioners at that time. Outside was a pile of wood to be used in the stove and a bench for sitting on. Granddad Bowser always told me that it was a place to sit and whittle, which he did quite frequently. He gave me a Barlow knife and tried to teach me to whittle, which, I must confess, did not turn out too well. He always said that whittling was a good way to think. All I proceeded to do was cut my fingers once in a while. But I did succeed in later years. He told me many stories of his early life, of where he worked on different farms, also of his taking the family to Virginia.
Some of my grandfather’s lessons were simple and to the point. If you are doing a lowly task, such digging a ditch, make it the straightest ditch that anyone has ever seen. When you are cultivating corn, see that you get close to the stalks but don’t plow them out.
Aaron Bowser would get some of his Stiffler neighbors to plow the largest section of his little farm. They would plow and harrow a small patch for him, but that is where their part of the labor ended. Granddad Bowser planted tomatoes, beans corn and sweet potatoes. He had a small cultivator, and he would have me and my grandmother pull it. He raised almost perfect vegetables. Times were hard back then. Granddad Bowser raised a pig, but he had no straw, so he gathered leaves for it from the nearby woods for bedding. He ground rye and added chicory that he got from a friend of ours who had a little store in Klahr. That was his substitute for coffee. My grandmother’s pantry always had a cookie jar filled with sugar cookies. I sampled that cookie jar almost every day.
In a genealogical history about the people who lived in the present-day Freedom and Greenfield Townships region, collected by Archie Claar, Aaron Bowser was listed as a person who went and lived at and worked on various farms. In other words, he was something of an itinerant farmer. His specialty was the cleaning out of fence rows. You see, when most farmers plowed their fields, they let the brush from the fences keep getting wider and wider. When he went to work on a farm, the first thing he did was grub out the brush with a mattock. He spoke of working on several farms out in the area of Bakers Summit. My grandfather also told of being at Juniata College in Huntingdon. How he came to be there was not clear. However, while there, he met Sir Harry Lauder, the entertainer. Lauder performed in many of the English speaking countries. His song, "Roamin in the Gloamin"was an instant hit wherever he performed.
Things changed for my Granddad Bowser’s life when President Roosevelt instituted the WPA Program. My grandfather Bowser got a job breaking stones on the township and state roads. He began to get a monthly check that he used to buy some of the things that he and his wife really needed. He also purchased a light system that used a six-volt battery. He had the house wired for the lights and also his new radio. Those days were probably some of the best days of my grandparents’ lives. A few years later, my grandmother had a stroke and lived only a few years after that. Aaron moved down to a little house that my dad built for him. He liked to ride the truck that Dollie drove to haul coal. He really enjoyed the trips he took with her. Granddad Bowser got sick while I was in the army and didn’t want anyone but Dollie to wait on him. He died during the time that I was in the army. Through a mixup in comunications, my superiors thought that it was my father who had died, so I was granted a leave to come home for Grandad Bowser’s funeral. So ended the life of one of the persons who shaped my future life. I have written so little, when there was so much to be said of him who made so much happiness in the life of a small child.
I spoke previously about the Claar-Walter reunion. Here’s a humorous little anecdote that I’d like to add about it. Aunt Tillie was a Walter, and Granddad Bowser was from the Claar line. Whenever Aaron spoke of the reunion, he called it the "Claar and Walter" reunion. When Aunt Tillie spoke of it, she called it the "Walter and Claar" reunion. This was amusing to us children but really serious to them. I was taken to the reunion from the time I was two months old until I was eighteen or twenty. My dad bragged that he had not missed one of them in thirty years. I still tell the story of when I was eight or ten years old; I was looking down at the ground and found two dimes and a quarter. It seems that from that time on, I never looked up, but continued to look for more change. I never did find any dollar bills, though.